Museums USA

Getty to keep PST rolling

As the success of the original project is measured, talks begin in Los Angeles about a sequel

De Wain Valentine's Red Concave Circle, 1970, and guests at the Getty's PST launch event in October

The J. Paul Getty Trust is gearing up to organise a sequel to its successful collaborative project, “Pacific Standard Time (PST)”, in “five or six years’ time”, says the trust’s chief executive and president James Cuno. “We recognise that [it] is just too good to let drop.” In the meantime, he says, the trust plans to keep the momentum going by organising smaller projects on related themes with “half a dozen cultural institutions”, which are to be announced, under the title “Pacific Standard Time Presents”.

“We are just starting conversations with the lead partners of PST”—the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) and the Hammer Museum—Cuno says. The trust filed a trademark application for the name “Pacific Standard Time Presents” with the US Patent and Trademark Office in April.

The rumour mill in Los Angeles is turning about a possible theme for a sequel. The original event was “ten years in the making”, as Cuno points out, and grew out of a project to rescue and research artists’ archives. Therefore, the Getty has been reluctant to force a theme so early in the planning stages. But there has been speculation that the next collaboration could have a wider geographic sweep, to include other regions in California, or expand further to incorporate the whole of the Pacific Rim. When asked to comment, Cuno says: “We’re just beginning the conversation.”

PST has attracted critical acclaim. Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art, 1945-80, published by the Getty, was the institution’s best-selling book of the year and received awards from the Independent Publisher and the Association of Art Museum Curators. One of more than 40 PST catalogues, it will provide a lasting contribution to scholarship, as does the catalogue of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s much praised contribution: Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, which included long-hidden works by Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler, James Turrell and Mary Corse, among other artists working with light in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. “The catalogue is already on the syllabus of universities including Berkeley,” says Hugh Davies, the museum’s director. Robin Clark, the co-curator with Davies of “Phenomenal”, says that there was very little literature on art of that era, “now there is a shelf full”.

Another achievement of PST, and perhaps the biggest indication of its wider impact, is the number of shows that have toured, many of them internationally. The Hammer Museum’s “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-80” is travelling to New York’s MoMA PS1 in October. Lacma is also in discussions to send its “California Design, 1930-65: ‘Living in a Modern Way’” on a tour to Tokyo in 2013, followed by stops in Auckland, Brisbane and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

“State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970”, co-organised by the Orange County Museum of Art and the Berkeley Art Museum, is due to travel to the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, this autumn and then on to Site Santa Fe and the Bronx Museum of the Arts next year, in a tour produced by Independent Curators International.

The Getty’s “Crosscurrents in LA Painting and Sculpture, 1950-70” and “Greetings from LA: Artists and Publics 1945-80” travelled to Los Angeles’s sister city, Berlin, where its iteration of Pacific Standard Time was presented by the Martin-Gropius-Bau (March to June). Gereon Sievernich, the Berlin museum’s director, says that many of the artists included “were a discovery for the German public”.

Despite the critical acclaim, attendance at the PST exhibitions in greater Los Angeles was variable. Lacma attracted around 364,000 visitors to its California design show, boosting its total museum attendance to more than one million, but other museums did not see a major rise in visitor numbers. A fuller picture will be available when the Getty publishes an independent study this autumn, which is due to include attendance figures for the PST initiative overall, demographic data, its economic impact, and the effect it has had on attitudes towards Los Angeles art.

“I think the Getty succeeded brilliantly,” says Hugh Davies, who is not alone in his praise of the Getty’s leadership. “They had the intellectual heft and financial capacity to pull it off and they did a good job of marketing and linking us up on the map. The Getty stepped up at a crucial moment to make it succeed.”

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13 Jul 12
2:20 CET


While you may find it interesting the the catalogue is being included in a syllabus at UCBerkeley, USC Professors Richard Meyer and Selma Holo have already taught a course dedicated to the entire PST project. The spring course was entitled "The Art of Curating: Lessons from Pacific Standard Time" and involved examining and questioning the curatorial strategies and greater themes of the PST exhibitions through more than a dozen visits to PST shows. I believe this fact alone proves that the PST initiative was very successful in creating important scholarship on the topic, not to mention inspiring young researchers to delve into smaller projects and more personal dedication to the period.

13 Jul 12
2:20 CET


Many of the museums did see increased attendance, especially the smaller to mid-sized museums.

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